Polycarbonate wine glasses are made from a type of thermoplastic rather than from glass, meaning the glasses are more durable and less likely to shatter. The polycarbonate is clear, which means it mimics the look of traditional wine glasses, and polycarbonate wine glasses can be washed and reused. They are also disposable if necessary, and since they can be purchased at a low cost, they can be bought in bulk for large events. They do not have the same feel or look as glass, however.
Large parties such as weddings will benefit from polycarbonate wine glasses, especially if the party planners are on a tight budget. The glasses can be purchased for a much lower cost than wine glasses made from actual glass, which means parties with many guests can be outfitted with polycarbonate wine glasses for a low price. The glasses are washable and reusable, and some are disposable for added convenience at larger events. Polycarbonate glasses are unlikely to shatter, making them a safer choice at parties as well. These inexpensive glasses are suitable for use at any type of party, though they are sometimes considered to be not as classy for extremely formal events.
At formal events, true wine glasses are usually preferred, since polycarbonate wine glasses do not have quite the same look or feel as traditional glass. High-end parties benefit from glass as well because glass is often a status symbol, much like real crystal glasses. If the party planner has a bigger budget, glass or crystal are both better choices than polycarbonate wine glasses as far as aesthetics and prestige, but the cost can be prohibitive for many party planners.
Sometimes polycarbonate glasses are made in such a way that the difference between glass and polycarbonate is almost indistinguishable. These glasses will be slightly more expensive, but they will be as convenient as other polycarbonate glasses. It is important to look for polycarbonate wine glasses that are BPA-free; BPA is a toxin found in many plastics that can leach into the wine after time. Many manufacturers will advertise BPA-free products, and they are usually no more expensive than any other types of polycarbonate glassware. It is also helpful to choose glasses that are stackable; this makes storage much easier after the party, and it can help make organization much simpler.